Waco Works to Sell Nearly 500 City-Owned Properties, Some Eyesor - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

Waco Works to Sell Nearly 500 City-Owned Properties, Some Eyesores to Neighbors

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(KCEN) -- There's a new player in the real estate game: the City of Waco.

For the last several months, they've been more aggressive in marketing foreclosure properties. They've even hired a real estate agent to do it. But the number of city-owned properties is stacking up faster than she can get rid of them.

They're properties with a past.

"They were, at one time, a row of bars that were there and some homes," said Sammy Smith of the row of empty lots in the 1800 block of North 15th Street.

Smith has lived across the street from that stretch for more than two decades. The last 10 or 15 years, the entire block has been empty.

"I know at some point in the future they will wind up being homes there," he said, "but until that happens, you know, it's just vacant property."

The city owns the properties, along with several hundred others -- 493 total. Some have houses on the land, but most don't. 

For most of the lots, there might a little bit of trash here and there, but in general they're in pretty good shape. All of them are tax foreclosures.

So as long as the city owns the lots, tax beneficiaries, including the school district, aren't making money.

"The taxes, in a sense, kind of fall away until there is a new owner," said McLennan County tax assessor Randy Riggs. "They try to get it back on the tax rolls as soon as they can."

So Waco is jumping in the real estate market. They've hired real estate agent Kendra Anderson-Zadnik to get the word out.

"Every other month we're seeing about 20 to 25 new ones that were coming," she said. And they're simply not selling enough, so the properties are stacking up.

"The city does pay thousands of dollars a month on maintaining these lots," Anderson-Zadnik said.

It costs more than $5,000 to mow all the properties once, through various companies the city contracts with. They've already done that three times this year. That's $15,000 and counting to cut the grass this year.

"In the future, I think all of us would ... love to see homes built," Smith said. So would the tax rolls. 

Smith said the empty lots across from his house are well-kept. He hasn't had any issues with overgrown greenery or trash on the ground.

Some neighbors, though, aren't so lucky. To some, they're an "eyesore," and for some potential buyers, they're not a good deal.

Chris Maldonado takes pains to keep up his property on North 12th Street. It's a lot of mowing.

"Last time when the rains came, I mean, it just came up," he said, "and we've got to cut it all the time." He said the house across the street doesn't get nearly the attention it needs. 

"They just cut the grass and that's it," said Maldonado, and infrequently at that. The house is falling into disrepair, with broken windows, no door, and trash strewn across the yard.

The property is owned by the city.

"We want to get these back in the taxpayers' hands," Anderson-Zadnik said.

She's working to do that by putting up 100 "for sale" signs, and selling the lots 40 percent off the tax assessment, on Waco City Council's authority.

"If it's priced right, and if it's in a good condition, it'll move," said Debbie Scoggins, a real estate agent in Waco.

Those are actually two big problems for the Waco properties. Some of them -- the ones with houses -- are green-tagged, which means they can be repaired.

But others, like the one across from Maldonado, are in such bad shape that they're red-tagged. That means the city is going to tear them down, and sell the land just as empty lots.

Then there's the price. One house on Dearborn Street in East Waco starts at around $31,000.

"Look at the neighborhood," said Kevin Burton. He already owns two other houses on the same block. "Run down house over here. It's not worth it." 

Part of the problem is the price of repairs, which could include new wiring and plumbing, like the house he bought last year two doors down from the city-owned property.

But the city has to figure out a way to move them. The maintenance costs keep climbing with the increase in properties in Waco's ownership, and some of the houses are dangerous.

"Need to knock it down or do something with it," said Maldonado, "or somebody's going to get hurt."

The city hopes that something is selling, and getting them back on the tax rolls. They're also working on a web site to help move the properties more easily, which will include pictures and maps of the lots.

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